What Was PayPal Key?

PayPal’s virtual card was discontinued in April 2022

A shopper makes a mobile purchase with PayPal Key.

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PayPal Key was a product that allowed PayPay users to make purchases at online retailers that require a credit card number. PayPal Key generated a virtual credit card number that PayPal account holders could use to make purchases online and over the phone. PayPal used funds from users' PayPal accounts to pay for Key transactions.

On April 20, 2022, PayPal Key was officially discontinued and is no longer available to use. According to PayPal, its Key product was discontinued in order to streamline its services and focus on its current debit card product. All transactions made using PayPal Key after April 20, 2022, will be denied.

What Was PayPal Key?

PayPal has an ever-growing suite of payment services, so it’s easy to get confused. PayPal Key was a workaround for when you want to use PayPal, but an online retailer doesn’t offer the PayPal button on its site. PayPal Key provided a virtual card number that let you shop anywhere online that accepts Mastercard. 

When making phone purchases, all users had to do was provide the virtual card number, expiration date, and security code, just like you’d do with a regular credit card purchase.

How Did PayPal Key Work?

PayPal’s old directions broke it down like this:

  1. Click the set-up link. 
  2. Click “Let's Go.”
  3. Choose the payment method (bank account, credit, or debit card) to fund PayPal Key.
  4. Click “Agree & Get Your Key.”

You were able to save PayPal Key to your Google Chrome, Safari, or Internet Explorer browser so that it’s just a click away when you check out online.

Did PayPal Key Work With Other Services?

Previously, you were able to add your PayPal Key to your Venmo account. You were also able to link your PayPal Key to Google Pay to use only online.

Were There Any Fees?

There was no fee to set up and use PayPal Key. However, if you made purchases in a currency other than U.S. dollars or bought from non-U.S. merchants, there was a 1.1% foreign transaction fee. 


Most credit cards with foreign transaction fees charge around 3%.

Will I Earn Rewards?

If you chose one of your rewards credit cards as the payment source for PayPal Key, you still earned points on those purchases. 

If you had a rewards card that offered 5% cash back for PayPal purchases, using PayPal Key (even on a site that didn’t offer PayPal as an option) allowed you to still receive the 5% back on that purchase. 

Pros and Cons of PayPal Key

  • Let you use PayPal at sites that didn't offer the option

  • Could switch payment methods easily

  • Safer option for people who wanted to pay with debit cards online

  • Transactions were covered by PayPal Purchase Protection

  • Was not available to all PayPal users

  • Limitations on how it was used

Pros Explained

  • Allowed you to use PayPal at sites that didn't offer the option: If you’re someone who gets frustrated when there’s no PayPal button at checkout, PayPal Key solved that problem.
  • Could switch payment methods easily: You can change your payment source for PayPal Key on the backend very quickly. This was convenient if you happened to have a PayPal balance or wanted to switch to a particular credit card to earn rewards for a specific category.
  • Safer option for people who wanted to pay with debit cards online: Anytime you can put a layer of protection in between your funding source and the checkout process, it’s a good thing. A virtual card number is the same idea, and since using debit cards online is generally considered risky behavior, PayPal Key lets customers pay from their bank accounts safely.
  • Transactions were covered by PayPal Purchase Protection: PayPal offered purchase protection for any purchases you made with Key. If an item you purchased wasn't delivered or was “significantly different” than you ordered, PayPal reimbursed you for the purchase price and shipping charges.

Cons Explained

  • (Previously) not available to all PayPal users: Only select U.S. customers were able to use PayPal Key.
  • Limitations on how it’s used: You weren't able to use PayPal Key with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or American Express cards. Also, you couldn't use it for in-store purchases—which is perhaps why PayPal pivoted its attention to its

Alternatives to PayPal Key

If your main reason for using PayPal Key was for the additional layer of security when shopping online, you should note that several card issuers also offer their own versions of virtual cards for a more secure checkout experience. These include Capital One Eno, Citi, Wells Fargo, and others. There’s also Masterpass and Visa Checkout, which support cards from any network. 

Some people may prefer to use their mobile wallets (like Apple Pay), which also encrypts credit card information. The advantage of a mobile wallet over PayPal Key is that it can be used both in-person and online. 

Additional PayPal Cards

PayPal discontinued PayPal Key in order to focus on its other card products. These include PayPal Cash Card, which acts as a debit card using your PayPal balance and allows users to make purchases in-store and online anywhere Mastercard is accepted, and the PayPal Cashback Mastercard, the company's credit card also available anywhere Mastercard is accepted.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I use PayPal Key in person?

PayPal Key was discontinued on April 20, 2022. However, users were never able to use PayPal Key in person, because it wasn't a physical card. For in-store purchases, you will need to use PayPal's debit card.

How many PayPal Keys can I have?

PayPal created one PayPal Key per PayPal account. If you had multiple PayPal accounts, you were able to have multiple keys. However, this product ended on April 20, 2022, for all users.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. PayPal. "Why Is PayPal Key Being Discontinued?"

  2. PayPal. "PayPal Key Terms and Conditions."

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